Some of the biggest names in theatre and New York City government were on hand to christen the hollowed-out, former bank on the northwest corner of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue which is to become Second Stage Theatre's second home. At 10:30 AM on July 1, Second Stage Artistic Director Carole Rothman, actress Patti LuPone, architects Rem Koolhaus and Richard Gluckman, and a host of city officials cut a ribbon opening the space to construction. Second Stage hopes to move in by February 1999.
The new theatre will be situated in the cavernous, high-ceilinged second floor of the 71-year-old, three-story structure. The theatre will seat 299, with the stage, measuring 27' x 55', resting at the side of the building facing Eighth Avenue. A cut-through to the third floor will increase the stage's fly-space to 43 feet. Restrooms will be tucked under the tiered seating and a lobby will sit at the back of the auditorium. The dramatic, 20-foot-high windows found on the building's south and east walls will usually be covered, but may be used as a backdrop for some productions, said Koolhaus. The entrance to the building will be on 43rd St., where Koolhaus and Gluckman preserved the bank's vault for use as a ticket window. The building's third floor will contain a green room, as well as wardrobe and rehearsal space. A small, fourth-floor space, originally built as a penthouse, will be converted into office space.
Second Stage said that $3.4 million of a $5.5 million capital and endowment campaign had already been pledged, including $1.1 million for the Board of Trustees. The company announced plans to open a new branch last year, making it the second Off-Broadway theatre company, after New Victory's children's theatre series, to respond to the gravitational pull created by the furious theatrical development on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. The construction represents an expansion for Second Stage, which will retain its uptown theatre.
Since 1995, the Times Square area has seen the opening of the New Victory Theatre, the renovation of the New Amsterdam Theatre by Disney and the Livent's construction of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts out of the former Lyric and Apollo Theatres. In the near future, the Roundabout Theatre Company plans to move from its current home in the Criterion Center to the former Selwyn Theatre, a few doors down from the Ford Center.
Second Stage is about to embark upon its 20th anniversary season. Past productions have included Tina Howe's Coastal Disturbances, Lynda Barry's The Good Times Are Killing Me, Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants, Michael Weller's Spoils of War and Theresa Rebeck's The Family of Mann. Theatre spokesman Alex Fraser told Playbill On-Line that the new Second Stage theatre season would not begin until February, after the new space is completed. -- By Robert Simonson